ilmana.fasih

Dr Ilmana Fasih

An Indian gynaecologist, married to a Pakistani, Ilmana is a health activist, and m-Health entrepreneur, who writes on social and health issues as a passion. She dreams of a world without borders and wars.

Can Pakistan be polio-free?

People who know me well know that I often compulsively compare and contrast India and Pakistan by virtue of not just their close proximity, but because I consider both countries as my home. When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio free on March 27, 2014, after it had not had a single case since 2009, I was filled with great pride. Knowing that India is densely populated, afflicted with poverty and has poor access to healthcare for millions, polio eradication was indeed something to celebrate. But as in every such situation, I naturally wanted to know how long it ...

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She came to me for a contraceptive but her husband dragged her away

It was a few years ago when a 40/41-year-old mother of five children (her eldest in his late teens) came to me asking for contraception. After we discussed the pros and cons of the various contraceptives available, she decided to pick a pill that was appropriate for her age. Half an hour later, her husband, a man in his early 60s, stormed into my clinic, flashed me the same medication in his hand and asked, “What is this?” “This is a medication for women,” I said. “Is this a contraceptive?” “Yes.” He threw it in the dustbin and warned me that if I ever dared ...

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You can play Holi too, even if you are Muslim

Phagwa, more commonly known as Holi, celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun (the 12th month of the Hindu calendar), is a festival that heralds the arrival of spring. Celebrated with colours, it is a symbolic expression of the changing of temperatures and the blossoming fields of green. My childhood memories are consumed with numerous instances from Holi. Living in a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood in Delhi, and belonging to one of the few Muslim families, we were surrounded by bright, colourful faces on the day of Holi. The enthusiastic crowd did not hesitate to smear my parents with colour the second they stepped out, ...

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Today, I wish Pakistan and India could be more like Canada

Dear Pakistan and India, Today was a beautiful day in Canada. The sun was shining bright, and it was a warm day in the cold month of November. The temperature in my city was 20 degrees centigrade. Warmer still were the temperatures of hearts in Ottawa where our new handsome Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, whom you loved when he relished biryani in a mosque or performed bhangra with the desi community, was taking the oath of office along with 30 other ministers. Half of these ministers are women. A 12-year-old boy from the indigenous aboriginal community led Trudeau to the ceremonial hall. The ceremony began ...

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Why sex education can prevent cases like child abuse in Kasur

While returning back from Karachi to Toronto in May 2015, I was sandwiched in the middle seat, in a long haul PIA flight. Conversation was natural when there were three Canadian Pakistanis returning from one home to another. After the usual introductions to individuals on both sides, the conversation gravitated to the then current trending topic, the sex-education curriculum that was being introduced in Ontario schools. The gentleman sitting at the aisle remarked, “I had gone to Pakistan to explore how to settle my children back in Punjab.” He asked again, “How old are your children?” “My children are in universities,” I replied. “You are lucky they are ...

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Will 2015 spare our children from the violence of 2014?

Thousands of miles away, in a candle vigil for the children of the Peshawar attack, the Mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Bonnie Crombie said, “The children lost in Peshawar were not just Pakistani kids; they were our children, the children of this planet.” I shuddered to imagine the paranoia of millions of parents in Pakistan on the day that their children will have to go back to school after winter break. And along with them, my mind wandered to the other children on the planet – the children who have lost their lives and so much more. I couldn’t help but think of ...

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There is nothing wrong in wishing someone a Merry Christmas

Pakistan saw its darkest hour when innocent kids were brutally massacred in Peshawar by terrorists last week. As every single Pakistani was in mourning, the whole world beyond borders and beliefs stood by us. Thousands of miles away here in Canada, Peel District School Board lowered its flag to half-mast for a whole week. In India, every school observed two minutes silence and Twitter trended #IndiaWithPakistan. The Christian community in Karachi sang prayers for the children of Peshawar. I hear now that the Christian community in Pakistan has decided not to celebrate Christmas this year. When I heard about this, it took me down memory lane, ...

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Wali Flo Shah’s success story: When he refused to let poverty break him

“I know you’d expect this kid to be a criminal, But before you judge someone, don’t be as cynical Because that child wasn’t a story, That child was me.” Thus, eighteen-year-old Wali Shah ended his powerful spoken word ‘The Child’, narrating his journey as an immigrant child – battling economic hardships at home and a troubled gangster life outside in Toronto, Canada. For his narration, he received a standing ovation at a prestigious event at United Way, attended by dignitaries in the city of Mississauga. I met Wali Shah later in his home, located in a modest, middle class rental apartment building. As his Mom received ...

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Samra’s story: When marital abuse did not break her

Attending the graduation ceremony of students at the prestigious University of Toronto, my daughter pointed out Samra Zafar, saying “She topped in Economics and she is a Pakistani!”  Samra was flanked not by parents, but two daughters, aged 12 and seven. I wanted to know more about her, and hence invited her over to our house next evening. At home, while sipping tea, Samra shared her 14 year journey with me and I was absolutely floored by her story. In 1999, in Abu Dhabi, Samra was a brilliant 16-years-old student of grade 11, dreaming to go to a foreign university to pursue higher ...

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Pizza Pakistania: A green and white authentic Italian delight!

Pizza is Italian and everyone knows it. However, as remarked by a cousin from Italy, what Pizza Hut and other pizza places make are delicious food – not pizzas. A typical Italian pizza has an extremely thin crust and a crispy base. Interestingly, when you ask some friends who bake pizzas at home, they share stories of how they add many ingredients into the base including eggs, powdered milk, baking powder, baking soda and butter. Yet, many of them fail to deliver the necessary sponge or the crisp in the base you find in parlour-bought pizzas. However, the recipe that a cousin shared from ...

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